There’s a law in Mississippi that allows businesses to deny service to LGBT people based on religious views. But that hasn’t stopped local entrepreneurs or large companies in South Mississippi from stepping up for their LGBTQ employees.
HB 1523 was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2016, but it was blocked by a federal judge shortly before it was supposed to go into effect. Then, a high court overturned that decision. HB 1523 went into effect Oct. 1, but local business owners have decried the bill and pledged to make their shops inclusive for LGBT people.
HB 1523 was challenged one day after it became law.
And it’s not just the mom-and-pop stores who are proving to be allies.
The Human Rights campaign released its 2017 Corporate Equality Index, which the group says “provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees.”
This year, 609 businesses earned the CEI’s top score of 100, which is a record high number in the 16 years the CEI has been released, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Dozens of companies that operate in South Mississippi make a perfect score on the CEI.
Here are some key takeaways:
- Some of the largest providers of jobs in South Mississippi got a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign. Some of these companies include casinos like Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and Harrah’s Gulf Coast Casino and energy companies like Chevron and Mississippi Power, a division of Southern Company.
- Walmart earned a perfect score from HRC in 2017, improving 10 points from 2016. The retailer scored a 90 last year because it did not offer transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage to its employees, according to the index.
- Although Walmart has many protections and benefits for its LGBT employees, the company that supplies gas stations on some of their properties received an extremely low score from the HRC. Murphy Oil, which operates gas stations outside of Walmart stores in South Mississippi, only scored 10 points of out 100 on the 2017 index.
- This is the fifth year in a row that MGM Resorts, owners of Beau Rivage, have received a perfect score from the HRC. The company boasts their grade on the MGM Resorts International Newsroom page.
Huntington Ingalls Inc. (HII), which operates Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, has the most-improved score in South Mississippi this year. Ingalls was rated with 85 points in 2017 in comparison to only earning 10 points in 2016.
“We are focused on building a workforce culture where the least-empowered person has the confidence to speak up. We want HII to be a place that fosters inclusion for every employee, regardless of their differences,” said CEO Mike Petters.
Mississippi Power, owned by Southern Co., got a top score from the HRC again this year. The company works hard to promote a culture of inclusion in and out of the workplace, said Danielle Kimbrough, public relations and communications specialist for Mississippi power.
The company holds an annual Diversity Summit for employees to join the conversation about inclusion and diversity strategy, Kimbrough said.
The best companies to work for that have stores in South Mississippi, according to the HRC corporate equality index:
- American Eagle Outfitters
- Beau Rivage (MGM Resorts International)
- Best Buy
- Harrah’s Casino (Caesar’s Corporation)
- The Coca-Cola Co.
- CVS Pharmacy
- Home Depot
- Hyatt Hotels
- JC Penney
- Marriott hotels
- Office Depot
- PepsiCo Inc.
- PetSmart Inc.
- Mississippi Power (Southern Co.)
- Verizon Wireless
- Waste Management
Companies that have stores or employees in South Mississippi that received a low or failing score from the HRC index:
- Bed Bath & Beyond
- Murphy USA
- O’Reilly Automotive
- Rite Aid Pharmacy
- Sanderson Farms Inc.
- Tractor Supply Store
- Winn Dixie stories
The HRC rates the companies on nine criteria:
- Prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation for all operations
- Prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression for all operations
- Has contractor/vendor non-discrimination standards that include sexual orientation and gender identity
- Offers equivalent spousal and partner medical benefits
- Parity across spousal and partner “soft” benefits
- Offers transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage
- Firm-wide organizational competency programs
- Has employer-supported employee resource group or firm-wide diversity council
- Positively engages the external LGBT community.